U.S. prosecutors request to use voice recognition evidence in trial to identify voices of terrorists

May 4, 2015 - 

U.S. prosecutors are requesting to use evidence taken from biometric voice recognition software in a trial of three reputed members of a terrorist organization, which would mark the first time in a federal trial in the U.S., according to a report by Daily News.

Brooklyn Federal Judge Sandra Townes has not yet decided if she will allow the jury to hear the results of the automated biometric speaker recognition software in the trial, which starts this week.

In the trial, defendants Mohammed Yusuf, Ali Yasin Ahmed and Madhi Hashi are charged with providing material support to Somalia-based terror organization Al Shabaab

The biometric technology was used to compare the voice of Yusuf with a masked terrorist shouting in an Al Shabaab propaganda video.

An expert witness would testify that the evidence “strongly supports” Yusuf is, in fact, the same individual who appears in the video.

The voice recognition analysis also identified the voices of Yusuf and co-defendant Ali Yasin Ahmed on cellphone calls that were intercepted by Swedish authorities, in which the two men mention their involvement with Al Shabaab, according to court papers.

“The government is aware of no federal court that has ruled on the admissibility of the voice recognition technique … biometric speaker recognition has been admitted in at least one U.S. state court proceeding, (and) is regularly used by law enforcement, has been the subject of substantial peer review or other scholarly critique, and has been offered into evidence in many European courts,” prosecutors said in court papers.

The voice recognition technology uses mathematical algorithms to compare voice samples and measure the probability that they stem from the same speaker, similar to in DNA testing, said court papers.

The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division used the same speech recognition software to help the Department of Defense identify notorious ISIS butcher “Jihad John”, as well as confirm the authenticity of recordings by Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahri.

Meanwhile, defense lawyers are objecting to the evidence, asserting that the technology is “not ready for prime time” in a criminal case.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.